USDA supporting vegetarianism to save the environment? This was quite the mishap when the USDA announced support for a Meatless Mondays campaign. The announcement was sent out internally to staff about how employees can reduce their environmental impact while dining in the agency’s cafeteria.
With ag industries such as the National Cattlemen’s Association and Farm Bureau in an uproar it was quickly retracted with a twitter explanation stating it was posted without clearance.
So what exactly is a Meatless Monday? Meatless Monday is a proposed campaign where individuals choose to not eat meat on Mondays for health and environmental benefits. Eating less red meat shows benefits in reducing saturated fat intake and increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables. Promoters believe that it is also a waste of fossil fuel, fertilizers, water and pesticides to raise the meat produced.
Unsurprisingly, agriculture industries are baffled by the idea, especially because the USDA has a supposed commitment to U.S. farmers. As American farmers work hard to ensure to meet food demand, quality, and safety of their products, a suggestion for eating less meat is a slap in the face.
Eating less meat will improve the environment?? That’s quite a stretch. Thanks to modern farming techniques, America’s farmers and ranchers are producing more food on fewer acres. As our food demand hasn’t gone down, removing grazing land for cattle into land for more grain production would only displace the blame. EPA regards the nitrous oxide emissions from a grazing animal are insignificant. Methane emissions from cows are only 0.9% of the grand total of greenhouse gases produced in our world. According to the EPA agriculture in total is 14% while industries and transportation account for 39%. It is true that raising beef, dairy, and chickens have an environmental impact but overall the impact is very small by comparison.
As Meatless Mondays is an outrageous campaign to be supported by the USDA, it doesn’t mean that everyone shouldn’t be conscious of their red meat consumption all days of the week. Having a large sirloin for lunch everyday isn’t beneficial to anyone’s health.
It is estimated that 27% of our food is wasted. With 96 billion pounds of edible “surplus” food thrown away in the U.S., This leads me to think there are plenty of other ways to benefit the environment than hurt American livestock producers.
Illinois Corn summer intern